A Journey to the Well School — by Jan Fortune

My journey to working with Caren has been a long one. Many years ago, home educating my four (now adult) children, I knew I wanted a more holistic outlook on caring for them. I didn’t want to be pouring antibiotics into them for every minor ailment. I wanted our model of family to include self-care. It was the ’80s and ’90s and I was also working full time as a parish deacon and later vicar. It didn’t occur to me to do any formal training, but I had copies of books by Tisserand and Patricia Davies and would haunt Neal’s Yard talking to staff there.

Then my life changed dramatically. I went through three work-place assaults in a difficult outer estate in Birmingham where I was the parish priest. The resulting injuries and trauma left me seeing four different consultants and unable to work. 

We moved to North Wales, partly because of links there and partly to heal. Gradually I ached for a new direction. I wanted a path that would use a life-long sense of ministry, in the broadest sense of helping people find their own sense of holistic well-being.

I searched for courses and found a herbal teacher, but she was only accessible by car and I don’t drive due to eyesight problems. And the support structures in my life at the time weren’t going to make this possible. Instead I returned to another passion, for writing. I did an MA, set up Cinnamon Press and almost 15 years later, I’m thrilled with the direction this has taken me in.

Working with authors to bring gorgeous poetry and fiction books into the world is a huge privilege and the sense of ‘ministry’ has remained. Each book is a writer’s baby — it’s precious and full of life. Midwifing a book into the world involves entering into  transformative relationships with the authors.

Another change came a couple of years ago. I was researching and writing a trilogy of novels that involved some extraordinary periods of travel, and I began a blog on the writing life. The site, Becoming your story, has been an exciting journey. It’s one that has brought me full circle back to that deep desire to integrate physcial well being into daily life and to how I relate to others.

I’ve found myself more and more drawn not only to working on manuscripts or mentoring writers, but to going deeper. I’m  fascinated by how the lives we lead, the story of each life, resonates with and effects how and what we write. 

It’s an increasingly holistic approach to writing. It involves thinking about our values as writers, how we perceive and use time, and how we find rhythms of equilibrium and connection in our creative lives, even amidst all the other demands on us. I’ve developed free courses and some longer journalling courses that help writers become the stories they want to live. And in the process I started to think about how integrated lives need strategies for self-care and physical support.

Self care and wellbeing in the garden

Running a small press, maintaining a blog, developing courses and writing novels and poetry keeps me pretty busy. But I talked to my incredibly supportive husband, Adam, about how the pull towards working with oils and herbs was resurfacing. Instead of telling me I had enough to do, he encouraged me to start looking for a course.

This wasn’t going to be easy. It had to be online as I travel a great deal for Cinnamon Press or for research and writing blocks. It also had to be theory only. I was looking for a way to integrate an aromatherapy practice into my work with writers (or family or friends) to enable others to integrate these healing oils into their holistic lives. 

But these were only the basic requirements. More importantly, I was looking for a teacher who wasn’t just marketing an off-the shelf course, but who had a deeply intuitive way of working alongside professionalism. I was looking for someone living their holistic values.

I was in France writing when I came across the Well School and I downloaded the free taster course. Words like ‘passion’ and ‘love to share’ drew me in. And my sense that I’d found an environment dedicated to both excellence and caring was soon confirmed by the follow-up emails from Caren. 

When I was home and we talked on the phone, I knew instantly that Caren was the right teacher. I tend to work intuitively and there was an openness that I resonated with. There was also good, clear  information but no pushiness or ‘sales’ language. When you are a natural teacher with a deep empathy for your subject and effective resources, you don’t need to belabour your points. It was clear that this was a passion-driven course but also a highly professional one.

Doing the course has exceeded even these expectations. The materials are clear, accessible, but deep. The approach is rigorously professional but also full of soul. The materials allow practitioners to apply heart and intuition as well as facts and guidelines, in wonderful equilibrium.

This holistic sense runs through everything. I thought doing the chemistry module might be dry and distancing. But no–whilst I learnt a lot of facts, the module encouraged me to think about how to bridge chemistry and a more instinctive feel for the oils. It was a revelation to see how the two could work in synergy.

I’m delighted to have found the Well School. If you are already qualified in massage, the theory only diploma is a superb way to add to your skills and extend the range of treatments you can offer clients. 

For me it’s been a way to add to the holistic nature of working with people who want to focus on well-being rather than on peicemeal treatment. It’s not a replacement for other approaches to health or for other medical models. Instead, it places the primary responsibility for daily health back in our own hands.

I’m constantly aware that the people I work with, whether they are family, neighbours or writers, are often juggling their writing lives with families, jobs and caring, are looking for holistic support. At the root of so much ‘dis-ease’ today are factors like stress, burnout, and emotional wounds. How do people lead creative and meaningful lives while managing this? The theory-only diploma has given me deep and valuable insights into providing such support.

How will you use your theory only diploma? Whatever your path, you will find the Well School an excellent, nurturing and mind-expanding space to take your next steps.


Thank you to Jan who kindly contributed her Well School journey for our blog.